News | May 4, 2022

TVA’s reckless gas plans threaten communities, customers, and the climate

Last year, TVA announced it was considering retiring the Cumberland Fossil Plant near Clarksville, Tennessee. As one of the dirtiest power plants in the nation, retiring this aging coal plant is long overdue. (©Nancy Pierce/Flight by Southwings)

The Tennessee Valley Authority is the largest public power utility in the nation – and it is planning to recklessly spend billions of dollars on new gas plants and pipelines. This massive, generational investment in fossil fuels is risky and unnecessary. So called ‘natural gas’ is mostly made up of climate-warming methane, and building new gas infrastructure will threaten Tennessee communities, worsen the impacts of climate change, and result in higher electric bills for TVA’s 10 million customers.

What are TVA’s methane gas plans?

Last year, TVA announced it was considering retiring the Cumberland Fossil Plant near Clarksville, Tennessee. As one of the dirtiest power plants in the nation, retiring this aging coal plant is long overdue.

However, TVA recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that makes it clear the utility plans to double-down on dirty fossil fuels. Instead of replacing the aging facilities with cleaner and cheaper renewable energy technology, TVA is proposing to build a carbon-polluting methane gas plant.

The draft EIS is just the first step for the utility, which is expected to retire its Kingston Fossil Plant and replace it with methane gas as well. These plants will cost more than $3 billion to build and will worsen the impacts of climate change.

How will TVA transport its methane gas?

To support the proposed Cumberland Gas Plant, TVA is partnering with Kinder Morgan to construct a 32-mile methane gas pipeline, which would cross streams and wetlands at more than 130 locations, imperil federally protected species, and cut through middle Tennessee communities. These communities would be forced to deal with water pollution from the pipeline’s construction as well as the risk of explosion inherent to all gas pipelines. Landowners along the route could be forced to sell easements on their property to the pipeline company.

What does this mean for TVA customers?

The construction of methane gas infrastructure would lock TVA customers into footing the multi-billion-dollar bill for expensive, climate-warming fossil fuels for decades. This means the utility would be unable to pursue cleaner energy options that customers are increasingly demanding – even as the prices of solar, wind, and battery storage continue to fall. According to a recent report, the cost of renewable energy has dropped a staggering 85 percent since 2010.

TVA passes its fuel costs onto customers, which means that increasingly affordable renewable energy options could lower customers’ monthly electric bills. Instead, TVA’s proposed gas buildout would commit customers to paying for methane for decades.

TVA customers have borne the brunt of pollution from TVA’s Cumberland coal plant for half a century. They deserve to finally have access to clean, renewable energy sources that can keep the lights on now — without locking TVA customers into more decades of fossil-fuel pollution.

SELC Tennessee Office Director Amanda Garcia

How will TVA’s plans impact the climate?

As a federal utility and the largest public power utility in the nation, TVA should be a leader in the fight against climate change. Yet TVA’s plans directly contradict U.S. climate goals – as well as what top climate scientists say is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Gas plants release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and pipelines leak dangerous amounts of methane – another potent climate-warming gas. In fact, methane releases are eighty times more powerful than carbon dioxide during their first twenty years in the atmosphere, making them an immediate threat to our climate.

How can I oppose TVA’s methane gas buildout?

There will be several upcoming comment periods where you can tell TVA to scrap its plans to sink billions into new methane gas plants and to instead invest in renewable energy sources that are cleaner, cheaper, and available right now.